The ministry of The Shelter started in 1971, and was initiated by the association Tot Heil des Volks ('For the salvation of the people'), a registered charity in Amsterdam. Since 1855 this Christian, non-denominational organisation has been doing missionary work in Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands.
Tot Heil des Volks was founded in 1855 by the Rev. Jan de Liefde. Out of compassion for the poor families in the Amsterdam city centre, the organisation helped provide clothing and food, and, most importantly, schooling. From the beginning the organisation was focused on bringing the Gospel of Christ in words and deeds. When the government started offering free schooling for all citizens of Amsterdam, and many families moved out of the centre to better housing, some of the school buildings that were owned by Tot Heil des Volk became empty. During the Flower Power years of the early 1970's the organization recognised the spiritual need of the many hippies that were flocking to Amsterdam. In the summer of 1971 one of the schools was turned into a youth hostel to provide a safe place for them to sleep with a message of God's love and hope. Because of the success, the next year a second school became a youth hostel as well.
Today, various Amsterdam based ministries are connected to Tot Heil des Volks. Among these are: